The company picked by the state Liquor and Cannabis Board to receive Issaquah’s second retail marijuana license is owned by a man who was sentenced to 13½ years in prison for murdering his wife.

Share story

The company picked by the state Liquor and Cannabis Board to receive Issaquah’s second retail marijuana license is owned by a man who was sentenced to 13½ years in prison for murdering his wife.

George James Garrett, who changed his name from George Dalton Gehrett in 2011, killed Stephanie Rooks Gehrett just after she had served him divorce papers and a restraining order on Oct. 15, 1993. He dumped her body into deep waters near the family’s summer cabin on Hood Canal.

Garrett is the father of Cliff Gehrett, the general manager of Issaquah’s first licensed retail marijuana outlet, Issaquah Cannabis Company. Gehrett was 7 when his mother was murdered.

Garrett was initially sentenced to nearly 17 years in prison in January 1994 for the second-degree murder plea, but that sentence was reduced on appeal to 13½ years. News coverage of his sentencing said Garrett gave “a pained apology” and called himself a good man who performed a horrible crime.

Garrett is listed in state records as the registered agent and governing person of Green Grotto LLC, which is in line to receive the license for a retail store in the same building as the store his son manages.

On the secretary of state’s registry of corporations, Garrett’s name is listed as George Gehrett, residing in Shoreline.

Garrett declined to be interviewed for this story, after initially agreeing.

Garrett’s attorney emailed The Issaquah Press and said “a sale of the business to a new owner is currently under way and, at the completion of that sale, George won’t have any ownership or involvement in the LLC. Consequently, by the time the store is licensed and ready to open, Green Grotto will be owned and operated entirely by a new operator.”

The attorney’s email prompted one state official to say: “They can’t do that.”

Becky Smith, the director of licensing and regulations for the state Liquor and Cannabis Board, said, “If there’s somebody in the licensing process, we don’t allow anyone to get off that license. We make everyone who is going through that process finish that process.

“It sounds like they’re trying to get him off the business without letting us know,” Smith said.

Background checks are performed on applicants for marijuana retail licenses, said Brian Smith, communications director for the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), and applicants with felony convictions can qualify if 10 years have passed from the applicant’s conviction date.

While it might seem odd to put two marijuana stores at the same address, city officials have said that through zoning, they deliberately limited the locations available to potential stores.

The LCB controls the number of retail marijuana licenses available statewide and in any given area. When marijuana became legal, Issaquah was allotted one retail marijuana license. The state granted Issaquah a second retail marijuana license in December.

Statewide, the cannabis board issued 222 new licenses to ensure access to marijuana for medical patients, LCB Director Rick Garza said in a December announcement.

At the same time it handed out new licenses, the state also put medical-marijuana retailers out of business as of July 1. Beginning on that date, all marijuana stores will need a retail license. Currently, medical-marijuana dispensaries operate largely unregulated, according to Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesman for the LCB. Existing retail stores will be able to get a certificate allowing them to serve medical-marijuana customers.

In Issaquah, at least two medical-marijuana dispensaries will need to close by July 1.

Green Grotto was not the only entity to apply for the second Issaquah license. Representatives of at least one of Issaquah’s existing medical-marijuana stores said they intended to try for the license, and the state website listed yet another potential license holder.

Carpenter said licenses were handed out on a competitive basis.

Garrett said he earned priority via holding the right to a retail marijuana operation outside Puyallup. But that city and the surrounding area both have moratoriums on retail stores, so Green Grotto never actually opened in that location, Garrett said.